Rough Weekend at Sweet Seasons Farm

As many of our readers know, the Minister of Agriculture is an organic farmer.

One way that I use to control weeds and brambles in the pasture without spraying chemicals is multi-species grazing. The sheep eat broom straw and I have a goat that tackles the brambles in the fenceline. The organic control seems to be working rather well. I don’t have enough sheep to totally handle the broom straw, but the flock will expand over time.

But the goat.

He’s a pain.

He is too smart for his own good. He figured out, by watching me, how to open the barn door. On Thanksgiving morning, he popped open the doors, strolled into the barn, and overturned the bins of grain I had for the chickens and my lactating ewe. Bonnie followed him in. And ate a whole bunch of grain.

Grain is not good for cattle. Their rumens are designed to process grass. The bacteria that live in their stomachs break down grass into digestible bits. Given time, and a slow introduction of grain, the bacteriapopulation in cattle stomachs can adjust to digesting grain as a raw material. But, in anything but small quantities, the animal will always be uncomfortable on a high grain diet (kind of like humans who subsist entirely on junk food - it may feel good, they will put on weight, but they will feel lousy). This is a major reason why I raise grass-fed beef. Force-fed grained animals live their lives in constant stomach pain as the grain causes the acid levels of their stomachs to rise - acidosis.

So Bonnie, who does not eat grain, gorged herself. And suffered from lactic acidosis. It was a mild case, but she was clearly unhappy - walking stiff-legged, holding her tail up and out, squirting diarrhea, and laying about moodily.

I had to give her a caulking gun (literally - I used a caulking gun) full of a charcoal solution to neutralize the acid in her stomach, inject 9 ccs of nitrogen into her neck muscle, and feed her a bacteria paste to replace the rumen bacteria killed by the acid conditions. She was not a happy camper. I can’t imagine how people whose animals are wild are able to treat their cattle. Bonnie is like a big, 900-pound dog, but a 900-pound dog who doesn’t want a caulking gun shoved into her throat is 900 pounds.

She seems a bit better, but is still not back to her old self. I really hope that she didn’t loose her pregnancy. The vet is coming for a follow-up next week.

Cross your fingers.

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